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Sector news, 29 August - 2 September

Engineering students take practical action for the future, Monday 29 August 2011

The JCB Academy, Britain’s first university technical college (UTC), opened for its second year on 22 August. Next month the Black Country academy will open, and there is funding for another 24 by 2014. UTCs are non-selective colleges for pupils aged 14-19, sponsored by universities, and teaching practical subjects such as engineering, product design and health sciences, as well as more general subjects such as English, maths, science and languages. Pupils also do 40-80 days’ work experience a year. Chris Arnot reports from the first UTC on how the pupils spend their day and the college’s plans for the future.

University staff asked to inform on 'vulnerable' Muslim students, Monday 29 August 2011

University staff including lecturers, chaplains and porters are being asked to inform the police about Muslim students who are depressed or isolated under new guidance for countering Islamist radicalism. Lecturers and student union officials who want to combat terrorism report feeling uncomfortable about this, feeling it’s an infringement of students’ civil liberties. University officials implementing the government’s revamped Prevent strategy are training university employees who come in to contact with students how to spot those considered vulnerable to terrorism, with documents saying those who seem depressed, estranged from their families or who bear political grievances could be at risk. The University and College Union (UCU) said that the government's strategy risked damaging the relationship between staff and students.

Whitehall emails reveal the hidden costs of promoting free schools The Guardian, Tuesday 30 August 2011

The controversial Tory initiative to set up free schools received fast-track public funding after fierce lobbying from advisers of education secretary Michael Gove, according to leaked emails, The Guardian says. Civil servants were urged that the New Schools Network (NSN), a charity providing advice and guidance to set up the schools, should be given “cash without delay”. The charity received £500,000. The first 24 free schools, part of the Conservatives’ ‘big society’ vision, are about to open.

Tell students what you can do for them - but be honest, says new UUK head Time Higher Education, 1 September 2011

The new president of Universities UK has warned institutions against resorting to marketing "hyperbole" in their efforts to attract students. Eric Thomas, speaking to the Times Higher Education before his speech this week at the annual conference of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (Case), said that "marketing and profile will become increasingly important" for the sector. He said institutions will have to explain to students what going there would do for them, and must be realistic in what they say they can offer.

Teaching stays female but gets even younger TES, 2 September 2011

Figures released by the General Teaching Council for England and collected from all those working in 19,739 schools in England and from those who have recently qualified as teachers show that the profession is now more youthful than ever and overwhelmingly female. The proportion of those aged 50-59 has dropped by eight percentage points in the past five years, and the number of teachers aged 39 and under has increased by seven percentage points in the same period, with more than a third under 35. Professor John Howson, a teacher supply expert and director of Data for Education, says the fact that half of women in schools are aged 21-39 creates a planning dilemma for headteachers in respect of calculating numbers expected to take maternity leave each year.